Scoutmaster Conference

Uniform: Full Class A
When: Schedule it with scoutmaster, whenever you have completed all the requirements for a rank.
Form used by Scoutmaster: Scoutmaster-Conference White Slip

The Scoutmaster conference is a visit between the Scoutmaster and a Scout. Typically it is held after the Scout completes all requirements for a rank, but before the board of review. The Scoutmaster conference determines if the Scout is ready to go before the board. Scoutmaster conferences can also be held to encourage Scouts who are not advancing, or are having difficulty in the troop.

Simply stated, a Scoutmaster's Conference should be held as often as necessary, or no less than one week prior to a Board of Review.

Scoutmaster conferences are also an important component of one of the missions of Scouting – association with adults. In Scoutmaster conferences (as in boards of review), Scouts are treated responsibly with adults in a non-threatening meeting format; are viewed as equals, not as kids; and are asked questions by adults who value their answers. Most of the interactions that teens have with adults put them in a decidedly subordinate role – not so with Scoutmaster conferences or boards of review, where Scouts are expected to show leadership and speak their mind. With each successive Scoutmaster conference and board of review, the Scout builds his confidence around adults.

The conference is a valuable opportunity for a Scoutmaster to discuss with each Scout his activity in the troop and his understanding and practice of the ideals of Scouting. This is a time for the Scoutmaster to:

  • Openly talk about the Scout’s progress in the troop.
  • Ask how the Scout has demonstrated leadership in the troop and his patrol.
  • Ask what he’s done in his position of leadership.
  • Ask how he defines Scout spirit and lives according to the Scout Oath and Law.
  • See how much fun he’s having.
  • Determine whether he’s having any problems.
  • Ask for suggestions to make the troop better.
  • Ask about non-Scouting areas of the boy’s life (school, sports, extracurricular activities, etc.)

Importantly, the Scout should be ready to review with the Scoutmaster any of the requirements for the new rank. The Scoutmaster must be satisfied that the Scout knows his stuff. By allowing the Scout to go before the board of review, he is saying, in effect, "I certify that this Scout is ready for his new rank." The board of review does not re-test the Scout, but the Scoutmaster can.

Scout Spirit

If you look in your Boy Scout Handbook at the rank requirements, most of them are pretty straight forward - demonstrate first aid for serious burns, tie a bowline, earn 6 merit badges, etc. However, beginning with the Second Class rank there is an added, more indefinite requirement: Show Scout Spirit.

The Scoutmasters have had a lot of questions over the years about what exactly "Show Scout Spirit" means. NO it doesn't mean that on Halloween night you dress up as the ghost of Baden-Powell (or any other famous Scout Spirit).

National BSA must have had a lot questions too, because they changed the requirement recently to read "Demonstrate Scout Spirit by living the Scout Oath and the Scout Law in your everyday life." That's a little better, but still… what does it mean?

The first thing you need to understand about Scout Spirit is that even though the requirement looks the same for each rank, it's really different - Scout Spirit for Life Scout is very different (and much harder) than Scout Spirit for Second Class. You'll discover that the scoutmasters will only sign you off for one "Scout Spirit" requirement at a time, because each one is harder than the next. For specifics on scout spirit for each of the ranks see individual rank pages.

The other thing that you will notice is that unlike almost all the other requirements, you can never convince a Scoutmaster to sign off the Scout Spirit requirement on the spot. Tie a bowline, and he'll sign that off; show him your merit badge card and he'll sign off that requirement for Star, but he'll never just up and sign off that pesky Scout Spirit one. That's because you must demonstrate Scout Spirit in your everyday life, not in the five minutes you're talking to the Scoutmaster. What happens is that at meetings and especially on campouts, the Scoutmasters are like Santa Claus - they're always watching you, to see when you are naughty or nice. Scout Spirit should be shown at all times, and generally this requirement is one of the last ones to be signed off for any rank. Scoutmasters will want to see the appropriate Scout Spirit for some period of time before they sign off the requirement. For Second Class that may only be for a campout and the last few meetings, but for Eagle it may be for several months.

What are they looking for? Believe it or not, there's a "Scoutmaster's cheat sheet" that the Scoutmaster and his friends all have to give us some idea. Here is just a few of the things we look for: By the way, we expect Scouts to not only follow the items listed for that rank, but also all the items for the previous ranks.


  • How often are Scoutmaster conferences held? Scoutmaster conferences are typically held the week before a board of review. However, Scouts who are ready for a conference sooner can always setup a separate time with their Scoutmaster for a SM Conference.
  • Where are Scoutmaster conferences held? As convinently agreed with the scout and the scoutmaster. THE CONFRENCE IS HELD IN FULL VIEW OF THE OTHER PEOPLE.
  • Is anyone else present during the Scoutmaster conference? Only the Scoutmaster and the Scout. But … THE CONFRENCE IS HELD IN FULL VIEW OF THE OTHER PEOPLE.
  • Is the discussion the same for all ranks? The discussion should be appropriate for the age and rank of the Scout. Some of the questions the Scoutmaster asks are relevant for all ranks. Other questions are more appropriate for older Scouts, especially those related to leadership, mentoring younger Scouts, and how he’s making the troop better.
  • Can I have a Scoutmaster conference before I finish the other rank requirements? No. The Scoutmaster conference is the final requirement before the board of review.
  • What’s the Scoutmaster conference like for Eagle Scout? It’s the Scout’s "final exam" with his Scoutmaster. This may be the last opportunity for the Scoutmaster to learn as much as he can about the boy’s Scouting career and ask questions about the impact of Scouting on his life. It’s also an opportunity for the Scout to advise the Scoutmaster on how he would make the troop better. This conference is usually longer than those for Star and Life. Successful completion of the Scoutmaster conference for Eagle Scout signifies that the Scoutmaster and troop certify to the district’s Eagle board of review that this Scout is ready for Eagle.
  • Can the Scoutmaster "fail" a Scout in his Scoutmaster conference? If the Scoutmaster does not believe that the Scout is ready for the next rank, he does not have to "pass" him. While such cases are not typical, it can happen if the Scout has not completed all the requirements or can’t demonstrate to the Scoutmaster that he knows the skills required for the rank. If a Scout’s behavior does not indicate that he has Scout spirit (defined as living the Scout Oath and Law in his everyday life), the Scoutmaster should not automatically send the Scout before the board of review. In these cases, the Scoutmaster will give the Scout specific direction on what he needs to do to successfully complete his next conference. Remember, as the unit leader, the Scoutmaster has the final say.
  • How do I set up a Scoutmaster conference? A week prior to the next scheduled Board of Review is recommended. Also, the boy should check with the troops Advancement Chairman 'records check prior to a board of review'.


  • The Scoutmaster conference is essentially a re-test of skills. False. The Scoutmaster conference is primarily intended as a way for the Scoutmaster and Scout to get to know each other better and to share information that will help the Scout and the troop. Because the Scoutmaster conference is the last rank requirement before the Scout goes before the board of review, the Scoutmaster can review skills with the Scout to be sure he’s ready to move on, board of review members DO NOT re-test the boy.
  • Scoutmaster conferences and boards of review must be tough sessions to give Scouts a taste of the real world. False. Just the opposite – these sessions are designed to put the Scout at ease, provide an environment where the Scout has the chance to talk openly and honestly, and get introduced to speaking with adults in a group session that encourages give-and-take.
  • "Demonstrating Scout spirit" is almost always an automatic check-off in a Scoutmaster conference. False. This is one of the most important areas the Scoutmaster is interested in. Scouts may believe that they’re ready for a Scoutmaster conference when they’ve completed all their skills and service requirements. They may not have given much thought about how they’re demonstrating Scout spirit, which is defined as living the Scout Oath and Law in your everyday life. Scouts need to give careful thought about how they’re showing Scout spirit, or they may not have a successful Scoutmaster conference.
  • Scouts generally find it easy to give specific, actual examples of how they live the Scout Oath and Law in their everyday lives. False. Many boys find this difficult to do, especially if they haven’t thought about it beforehand. Give careful thought about what the Scout Oath and Law really means to you. Give good, real-life examples.
  • A Scoutmaster must approve a Scout for advancement if the Scout has held a position of responsibility for the stated amount of time required, even if the Scout exhibited no leadership while he was in that position. False. The requirement says, "serve actively." The Scoutmaster has every right not to advance a Scout who’s done nothing while holding a position of responsibility. In fact, he would be doing both the Scout and the troop a disservice by "socially promoting" the Scout.
  • If, after a Scoutmaster conference, the Scoutmaster does not believe a Scout is ready for advancement to the next rank, the advancement chairman or troop committee chairman can override the Scoutmaster’s decision. False. The Scoutmaster’s decision is final. If the Scout wishes to file a formal protest, he can do so with the district advancement chairman. In nearly all cases, the district will support the Scoutmaster if he has followed BSA policies and procedures correctly.
  • There is no real reason to have a Scoutmaster conference with a Scout who’s lagging behind and not advancing. False. This is exactly when a Scoutmaster conference is needed! These meetings are not just held when a Scout is ready for advancement, but also can serve as counseling sessions to determine why a Scout isn’t advancing. A well-timed Scoutmaster conference may make the difference between a Scout who gives it another chance and one who throws in the towel.

Adapted from the Scoutmaster Conference guidelines on Troop 764's website and Utah National Park Council.
Scout Spirit adapted from Hatboro Troop 81 website.

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